Calvary Schools of Holland staying on track despite switch to remote learning

HOLLAND — While the transition from in-person instruction to remote learning has taken a lot of work for schools, Calvary Schools of Holland has been able to take the change in stride and keep kids engaged.

The school was able to have remote learning up and running March 16 — the first school day after the statewide school closure. Since then, Calvary hasn’t missed a day of school and school leaders say that 100 percent of students are taking part in daily lessons and that the school is on track with its curriculum.

“We feel very pleased with the quality of the home learning we’re offering,” Principal Cheryl Ward said. “We’ve worked hard at taking the quality of what we offer in class and being able to translate that over to a distance-learning operation.”

Each day, students will have at least one Zoom meeting with their teachers and classmates before finishing the “school day” with some independent work.

“We had to make sure we gave enough, but not too much,” Ward said. “Our younger students have a one-hour Zoom session every day. Then they have some home learning work as well. That would be for our elementary and some of our middle school students.

“When you hit high school, students do two or three classes in the morning between 9 a.m. and noon and also do some independent work.”

A big factor in having a smooth transition, according Ward and head of schools Bryan Walker, was frequent staff training and a shift to discussion-based learning in recent years.

“One of the things that really helped us were the things we were already doing in class,” Ward said. “Once we had started (discussion-based learning) in our normal sessions, that has moved seamlessly into our home-learning opportunity. With Zooms, it’s a lot of discussion. If you want to have student engagement, you’ve got to have students talking and interacting.”

“We were able to get there because of all the training we do regularly,” Walker added. “Our ability to help students enjoy learning and faculty to enjoy teaching allowed us to pivot in that space.”

Ward said providing meaningful instruction was the main goal of Calvary’s remote learning.

Our highest priority was we wanted to make sure there was real instruction happening and our curriculum was going to move forward,” she said. “We didn’t just want to educationally have students occupied, we wanted them actually moving forward in learning.”

While private schools aren’t required to get approval from intermediate school districts for remote learning plans like public schools are, Calvary still sought approval from the Ottawa Area ISD, and received high marks.

“We respect what the OAISD does and the leadership there,” Walker said. “We gave our program to the ISD for their review and we got really positive feedback.”

Ward added that parents have been a big help in the school achieving 100 percent participation as well.

“Parents really help out with this, too,” she said. “We really have just come together. Our parents understand the importance of working together toward this. There’s a strong sense of school unity and some real healthy pride in what we can accomplish together.”

*Calvary Schools of Holland is a member of Ambleside Schools International.

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Mitchell Boatman
Holland Sentinel